Attacks on the LGBT community go unpunished. The police investigate such incidents at an easy pace, while the cases are qualified as amounting to a crime of “hooliganism”, regardless of being motivated by hate against LGBT people, coming from certain groups of the population. The topic was brought up again, by human rights defenders, just before Kyiv LGBT Pride (annual march in support of the equality of LGBTI people).
“Our study shows that for the past three years attacks, physical violence, damage to equipment, property and offices, and threats have been the main problems. An even bigger problem is that there is impunity for attacks and the lack of effective investigations,” said Tetiana Pechonchyk, Chairperson of the Human Rights Information Centre, during a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
Impunity is the key problem
According to activists the problem of impunity lies in the fact that the police do not know how to investigate hate crimes. It is easier for them to tread familiar path and qualify a case as a crime of hooliganism. “The police do not have knowledge of the specificity of hate crimes. They consider it appropriate to investigate a case as amounting a crime of hooliganism because they have relevant practical experience, rather than get on-the-job training because they have a big caseload. The police need to learn to be tolerant, leave their homophobia at home, not be afraid to tell their leaders that there is exactly such a motive,” said Oksana Huz, lawyer, Senior Partner of Law Association “Prove”.
Inadequate legislation and accusations towards victims
One more reason is inadequate legislation that does not ensure effective investigations into hate crimes. Although people are increasingly insisting on the view that it is Article 161 (violation of citizens’ equality based on their race, nationality or religion) that should apply, it still must be explained to law enforcement agencies why it is important that a person was beaten for a T- shirt featuring rainbow and what insults were directed against such person. Moreover, it is often easier for the police to accuse a victim him/herself, rather than investigate a case. “You must have courage to go to the police and tell them what you were beaten for. You can always encounter a personal, not-so-friendly attitude towards you, by the police. In my case, an investigator was particularly interested in whether we understood what would be consequences of our experiment rather than circumstances surrounding the attack [experiment where two boys were walking around Kyiv holding each other by the hand for an hour – UCMC]. This a classic technique for accusing a victim,” emphasised Zorian Kis, Project Coordinator, Freedom House in Ukraine.
A positive aspect is that today such cases can be investigated, which was not possible before. A conversation about diversity in society becomes more acceptable. “Amount of statements is increasing. On the one hand, this is a contribution by human rights defenders and people who continue to fight. On the other hand, this is a contribution by the police and law enforcement agencies that accept such statements. Just 10 years ago such statements could not be even filed under an old version of the Criminal Code,” stressed Oksana Pokalchuk, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ukraine.